The sad fate of Mersey ferry The Royal Iris was underlined this week after a lifeboat crew was dispatched to the half-sunken vessel now moored up and derelict in the Thames.

In her heyday, the Iris was famous for her party nights and saw performances by the Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers in the Merseybeat era.

But earlier this week, it became clear that the poor old Iris has fallen on an extremely hard day's night.

The Gravesend lifefboat crew was alerted by police and London Coastguard on Monday after reports that the she was taking on water where she is moored near Woolwich, South East London.

Helmsman Graham Tassell and volunteer crew members arrived "to find an eerie scene", with the water swamped up to the level of the deck.

It is believed the Iris has been taking on water in her stern every high tide as she sits on the mud.

Mr Tassell said: "We were asked to launch the lifeboat because police believed there may have been people on board the ferry.

"When we arrived, police were on scene and requested that we help search the vessel.

"The vessel was swamped to the level of the deck – it was a pretty odd sight as everything was so calm.

"We conducted a search alongside officers – thankfully nobody was found to be on board, although no-one could check the lower levels due to water entry."

The Royal Iris was used as a passenger and cruising ferry for 42 years on the Mersey, after which she was sold for intended use as a floating night club in Cardiff – but this never came to fruition.

She was moved to the River Thames in 2002, where she has remained ever since in an increasingly derelict condition.

Arriving in the Mersey on December 5, 1950, she was initially owned and operated by the old Wallasey Corporation.

On entering service in May, 1951, she was licensed to carry 2,296 passengers on normal ferry duties, or 1,000 for cruising.

Painted in green and cream livery, the ferry was a big hit with Merseysiders from both sides of the river with her dancefloor and stage, tea room, buffet, cocktail bar, and even a fish and chip saloon - which led to the Royal Iris nickname "the fish and chip boat".

Shipping enthusiasts have been debating what has happened to the vessel on the Wirral History Forum, which can be found by clicking the link below.